I was absolutely shocked when I viewed the new print ad campaign coming from the California Department of Public Health, which Stan Glantz had touted as being outstanding. The campaign could not be any more advantageous for the combustible cigarette industry than if cigarette manufacturers had designed the campaign themselves. But to top off this sad story, the cigarette companies are not spewing forth the same false and misleading propaganda, even though it would benefit their cigarette sales. Instead, it is the California state health department that is doing the industry's bidding. This is a startling and sad retreat from the days when California was truly a leader in tobacco control.
In a press release touting the campaign, the director of the California Department of Public Health - Dr. Karen Smith - stated: "California has been a world leader in tobacco use prevention and
cessation since 1990, with one of the lowest youth and adult smoking
rates in the nation. The aggressive marketing and escalating use of
e-cigarettes threatens to erode that progress."
Some of the text from the print ad campaign reads as follows:
"Sure, e-cigs are healthier, if inhaling toxic chemicals sounds healthier to you. Wake up."
"It's the next generation cigarette. For the next generation of addicts."
"Big Tobacco calls e-cigs a smarter alternative to smoking. We can trust them, right?"
The Rest of the Story
Unfortunately, the California Department of Public Health has it all wrong. It is the California state health department that needs to wake up, not the public. Literally millions of vapers out there know the truth: that e-cigarettes are indeed healthier than tobacco cigarettes and that these products are a smarter alternative to smoking. And these vapers also realize that even if they do become addicted to e-cigarettes, it is still much better than smoking. In fact, it is an addiction that just might save their lives. The vapers out there have woken up. It is the state public health officials in California who are need of the wake up call.
Dr. Smith has it all wrong when she states that the escalating use of e-cigarettes is going to erode progress in reducing adult smoking rates. That is an inane statement because the more the use of e-cigarettes among adults escalates, the lower and lower cigarette consumption will fall. A dramatic escalation in the use of e-cigarettes among adult smokers would in fact create much greater progress in decreasing adult cigarette consumption than we have seen in years.
Even the use of e-cigarettes among youth is not eroding the progress in reducing youth smoking. There is no evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking. In fact, the current evidence suggests the opposite: that flavored e-cigarettes may actually be deterring youth from smoking the real, non-flavored, unpalatable tobacco cigarettes.
This campaign is extremely destructive to public health because it is sharply deterring smokers from quitting smoking by switching to electronic cigarettes. Instead of trying to quit using these innovative, tobacco-free products, many smokers in California will now decide that they might as well just keep smoking. After all, if e-cigarettes are not healthier than tobacco cigarettes, then what's the point in making the switch? If e-cigarettes are not a smarter choice than tobacco cigarettes, then why quit smoking?
The worst part of the campaign is its dishonesty. It is lying to the public by asserting that electronic cigarettes are not healthier than tobacco cigarettes.
In other words, the rest of the story is that the California Department of Public Health is actually spending taxpayer money to try to convince the public that smoking is no more hazardous than using non-tobacco-containing, non-combusted electronic cigarettes, which have been shown to drastically reduce exposure to the tens of thousands of toxins and more than 60 carcinogens in tobacco smoke and to immediately improve respiratory health among smokers who switch to them, even if used together with cigarettes.
The rest of the story is that the California state health department is lying to the public and that lie is going to cause tremendous public health damage.
Why is it that the California and Washington state health departments are spending so much money to protect tobacco cigarette profits?
Apparently, public health officials in these states are so blinded by anti-nicotine ideology that there are unable to separate out the issue of addiction from the issue of disease and death. They are now engaged in an ideological fight against addiction in and of itself, even if that fight results in an actual increase in disease and death.
It is a very sad day for me: it is stomach-curdling for me to see supposedly anti-smoking officials lose sight of what they are supposed to be fighting. We in public health are supposed to be trying to reduce disease and save lives, not engage in an ideological battle against the concept of the use of an addictive substance.
ADDENDUM: Fortunately, several vaping groups are running a counter-campaign that helps to correct the lies being spread by the California Department of Public Health.